5 Ways To Reduce Workplace Stress

Earlier this year, CareerCast shared its list of the least and most stressful jobs for 2014, based on factors like physical demands, hazards encountered, deadlines, and environmental conditions.

Some of the least stressful jobs included seamstress, dietician, and multimedia artist. Unsurprisingly, professions like enlisted military personnel, fire-fighters and police officers were ranked as being some of the most stressful due to the unpredictable conditions and risks involved.

But although some jobs are certainly more harrowing than others, we all deal with work-related stress on a daily basis.

According to the annual Stress and Wellbeing Survey by the Australian Psychological Society, stress levels were significantly higher in 2013 than in previous years, with nearly half of working Australians rating issues in the workplace as a source of stress.

In the US, a work stress survey by Harris Interactive found that 83% of Americans were stressed at work. Unreasonable workload, poor compensation, and frustration with co-workers and commutes were cited as some of their top stressors.

Fortunately, over the years research has uncovered a number of strategies for tackling workplace stress. Here are some simple but effective ways to manage stress in the workplace.

1. Organize your workspace and schedule

Taking control of your environment and schedule can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressing unnecessarily.

A study from University College London found that when faced with a messy work environment, people immediately experience a rise in stress and anxiety levels. Before you start work each day, take a few minutes to tidy up your papers, remove any day-old coffee cups, empty waste paper baskets, and open a window to let in some fresh air.

When it comes to your schedule, figure out what you can control (such as when to take your lunch break or the order in which you’ll complete certain tasks) and what is set in stone (the meeting with your boss, for example). This will help you manage your time more efficiently and maintain as much control as possible over your everyday routines.

2. Step outside

Nature can help people respond better to disruptive events, and a study led by the University of Edinburgh shows that people’s stress levels are directly related to the amount of green space in their area. In fact, the researchers found that for every 1% increase in green space, there was a corresponding steeper decline in participants’ stress levels.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a quick stroll in the park. If there isn’t much green space near your workplace, you could make an effort to take a nature walk before heading to work each day.

3. Tune in to distractions

Noisy office environments can be difficult to cope with, but strangely enough, trying to block out the conversation that’s happening two desks over or ignore the sound of your colleague tapping their pen on the table may actually be more stressful than paying attention to it.

Mindfulness experts, like author and journalist Dr. Danny Penman, believe that tuning in to a distraction can prevent you from feeling stressed out. This is because being aware of a distraction and observing the effect it has on your body (tense muscles, clenched jaw, etc) tends to rob it of its power and helps you to relax.

4. Talk it out

Healthy and supportive relationships have been shown to reduce stress, and a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that chatting to your mum on the phone reduces a key stress hormone and causes oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, to be released.

Of course, you may not want to call your mother every time you’re having a difficult day at work, but chatting to a friend or close relative can lower your stress levels and also help you to see your situation from another perspective.

5. Adopt a more positive outlook on stress

Stress is bad, right? Well, not necessarily – according to a research study from Yale University, it all depends how you look at it.

The researchers presented some experiment subjects with information showing that stress can be beneficial, while others were told that it is debilitating. Those who had been exposed to positive information about stress reported improved psychological symptoms and better work performance.

So not only could adopting a more positive attitude toward stress can help you to deal with it more effectively, it could even transform your stress into something good that enhances your performance, health and personal growth.

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(About the Author: Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers educational psychology, career development and workplace productivity. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+, or find her latest articles here.)

photo credit: Kerri Lee Smith via photopin cc

Make Your Monday More Productive Now

There’s a reason most people dread Mondays: They’re notorious catch-up days. You answer the dozens of emails you neglected over the weekend and attempt to make sense of your triple-booked calendar for the week.

By the time you actually start working, it’s almost lunchtime. How did that happen again? No wonder Tuesday is thought to be the most productive day of the week. But it doesn’t have to be.

A few simple changes to your routine can rock your professional world. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Here are three ways you can make your Monday more productive:

1. Prioritize Before You Prioritize

Write down the top three tasks you know you have to get done that day. These are three tasks you were thinking about in the shower or while you were making your morning coffee. They’re probably on the top of your mind because they’re the most important or time-sensitive tasks of the day. Do them first.

If they’re cognitive in nature, it’s especially important you get started before noon, when your ability to focus starts decreasing for the day.

When making your list, don’t look at your calendar or email. Glancing at your calendar may seem harmless, but you’ll instantly be flooded with dozens of seemingly important tasks. It’ll make picking the top three more stressful than helpful.

When you finish a task, don’t forget to cross it off the list. If it’s a task that involves someone else in the office, celebrate the win. Celebrating the little wins will make your day more rewarding. Take a moment to high-five a colleague or buy yourself a cupcake — or both.

2. Do An Email Sprint, Not A Marathon

Checking email in the morning has become a bit taboo lately, for good reasons, but let’s be real here: You’ve got to check your email. So do a sprint instead. You know what you’re looking for, and with a quick one-minute scan of your inbox, you can flag anything urgent that needs to be answered immediately and ignore the rest.

Don’t even open the email if you know it can wait until the afternoon. Most things don’t matter, at least not immediately, but doing an email sprint will catch anything that does. As soon as your one-minute sprint is over, answer the urgent emails and move on to the first task on your priority list.

Wait. It’s only 9:30 and you’ve already prioritized your day and checked your email? Professional world rocked yet?

3. Take A Break

A lap around the office, a quick read of the morning paper or even a nap if it’s allowed are all good ways to give your brain a boost. If you’ve been working on the same task for a while, but the ideas are no longer flowing freely, take a break. Listen to your brain telling you it can’t focus right now.

Short breaks can recharge your brain and help increase productivity. It may seem counterintuitive, but being unproductive in a constructive way (getting exercise, staying informed or sleeping) for a couple minutes will make you more productive for the next 60.

It’s possible to beat the odds and make Monday your most productive day. While these productivity hacks are especially important to implement on Mondays, they can help increase productivity at work on any day of the week. Start today.

Originally posted on Brazen Careerist on March 31, 2014

Written by: Emma Zimmerman 

(About the Author: Emma Zimmerman is a Marketing Associate at Startup Institute, an international career accelerator offering transformative educational experiences for career changers and recent grads. Her work with early stage startups in Chicago led her to a company @StartupInst that increases the impact of startup employees and helps people find their passion.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

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